Leica IIIB



Leica IIIB


Designed by Oskar Barnack, the Leica rangefinder camera was introduced in 1932. This was the first ever 35mm system camera with a range of screw mount interchangeable lenses.  The screw mount series of cameras continued in production until 1960 when the M series was introduced. During this time the range continued to evolve with two basic models (II & III) and several variants (A,B,C,F,G) being produced.

These cameras have a jewel like precision quality that no other camera has ever had - even the Leica M series.  Using one of these cameras takes you back to the basics of photography.  In a few minutes it is possible to work out how to use it – even without the aid of an instruction manual (compare that to a modern digital SLR with its 250+ page instruction manual).

The Leica IIIB was made between 1937 and 1946. Being the III model it has the slower range of shutter speeds (1s to 1/10s) that the II does not have and, compared to the previous A model, it has the rangefinder and viewfinder placed closer together. Even after 70 years the controls and shutter have not lost their precision quality which makes this camera a joy to use.



Oskar Barnack - the inventor of Leica Cameras More



The most popular lens to use with this camera was the 5cm F3.5 Leitz Elmar.


5cm F3.5 Leitz Elmar 1931-1959

This is the lens that earned Leica’s reputation. All are collapsible which means they collapse into the camera body when not in use which makes the camera and lens combination very compact - a favourite with the 1930s French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Prewar versions are uncoated with postwar versions being coated.  Early versions are Nickel with later ones being chrome.  The Black Scale version stops down to F18 while the later Red Scale version stops down further to F22.  All versions can suffer from fogging and cleaning scratches although a few light scratches should not reduce the performance.


Although these lenses can be over 70 years old, a good one can still produce sharp images with a pleasing softness to them.  The negatives lack contrast, but this can be advantageous because it means they retain the shadow and highlight detail, and once scanned, the file can be processed in Photoshop to show a full range of tones.



Because this camera does not have a built in exposure meter, the exposure can be worked out using the Sunny 16 Rule - see my Number 20 Photo Tip.



Leica "Barnack" Screw Mount Camera Film Loading Guide

Leica “Barnack” Screw Mount Cameras have a reputation for being difficult to load.  But, by following the worksheet below, it should be a lot easier.  Remember that Robert Capa, the famous war photographer, had to do this while out in the field during the Spanish Civil War.

PDF File Download  Leica "Barnack" Screw Mount Camera Film Loading (136kb)          Download




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